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Supreme Court of Appeal blocks bad-tempered, disrespectful law graduate from being admitted as an attorney

Supreme Court of Appeal blocks bad-tempered, disrespectful law graduate from being admitted as an attorney
Illustration: Lisa Nelson

Disrespectful behaviour by a lawyer cannot be tolerated in court, say SCA

A law graduate who has a “predisposition to bouts of extreme anger and disrespect” is not a fit and proper person to be enrolled as an attorney, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled.

Goane Jack Siamisang Montshiwa, who studied his LLB (law degree) through Unisa, approached the court to appeal the refusal to admit him as a legal practitioner by a specially constituted two-judge full bench of the Mahikeng High Court.

The Mahikeng court judges found that he was not a fit and proper person and had not completed the necessary practical vocational training, among other reasons, for rejecting his application.

Montshiwa’s application for leave to appeal was unsuccessful and so he petitioned the SCA.

The SCA said the refusal to grant Montshiwa leave to appeal in the high court was “a nullity” because it had only been heard by one judge.

Also read: “Dali Mpofu’s defence of Busisiwe Mkhwebane skating on very thin ethical and legal ice

However, SCA Acting Deputy President Nambitha Dambuza (with judges Caroline Nicholls and Mahendra Chetty concurring) said she did not believe that Montshiwa should be sent back to the High Court to make a fresh application for leave to appeal. Instead, the court should exercise its inherent powers under the Constitution to consider the merits of the application to “avoid multiple fruitless court proceedings between the same parties”.

Judge Dumbuza said she was not persuaded that another court would reach a different conclusion about Motshiwa’s fitness to become a legal practitioner.

“The courts in this country and elsewhere have identified certain qualities for a fit and proper person as envisaged in the Legal Practice Act. These include integrity, hard work, dignity, honesty, fairness and respect for legal order,” she said.

She said, while the expression “fit and proper” was not defined in the act, one of its objectives was to enhance and maintain appropriate standards of professional practice.

“As a legal practitioner, Mr Montshiwa would be expected to conduct himself with the highest degree of integrity … insulting vulgar and disparaging language by a legal practitioner cannot be tolerated.”


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Judge Dambuza said it appeared from the record that Montshiwa’s conduct fell far short of what was expected.

“It is apparent that his appreciation of the processes, procedures and decorum of our courts is woefully deficient,” she said.

In response to opposition to his admission by attorney Jerry Sithole, Montshiwa had claimed it resulted from “bitterness and stupidity” and was an “idiotic move … motivated by stupidity”.

When another attorney, J Nkomo, filed an application to intervene in the admission proceedings in order to place on record certain conduct by Montshiwa in the Maintenance Court, Montshiwa had referred to the application as “idiotic”, “barbaric” and what would be expected from a “passionate first year law student”.

Judge Dambuza said Montshiwa had written to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services requesting that he establish a commission of inquiry to investigate “the relationship between Mr Nkomo and the North West High Court Bench”.

The Judge President of the North West division at the time was also not spared from Montshiwa’s tirade, who described her leadership as “a mockery”. He also laid a criminal complaint against her.

He also directed insults at judges who heard his application for admission and accused them of bias and collusion with the Judge President.

In the SCA, he continued with his vitriolic attacks “all of which demonstrate his lack of appreciation of the ethos and principles that govern the legal profession and the courts of this country”, said Judge Dambuza.

She cited in her judgment an article published on GroundUp, in which Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Rishi Seegobin stated that “the effective functioning of our courts and the proper administration of justice are highly dependent on how legal practitioners go about discharging [their duty to the court]”.

Judge Dambuza said Montshiwa did not dispute the conduct and utterances attributed to him but only maintained that his conduct was not inappropriate.

“That cannot be so … Against this background no other court would find differently from the decision of the High Court,” she said, dismissing the application for leave to appeal, with costs. DM

First published by GroundUp.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    In fairness, the young man probably used Dali Mpofu as a role model 😉

  • Michael Forsyth says:

    One only has to look at advocates like Dali Mpofu to see why this tyrannical youngster thinks he can throw his weight around.

  • David Bristow says:

    You go lad, tell those old farts what’s what and who’s who in the new zoo. You have a book in the making – “How to Get Ahead in Life and Business”.

  • Theresa Avenant says:

    Sounds like one very angry young man. My advice to him would be to have some counselling and simultaneously consult a psychiatrist who may be able to prescribe appropriate medication to help him along. Anger management is an important life skill and once he master’s it, his life will improve. I would wait two or three years and then approach the court again. Once he has admitted that he has a problem and has done some serious work to correct it, he may be able to re-apply based on changes he has made to improve his life and his prospects of success in legal practice. Never give up lad. There is always a way around what at first seems to be an insurmountable problem.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Dali Mpofu clone. It’s high time he was disbarred.

  • Tracy Smith says:

    “As a legal practitioner, Mr Montshiwa would be expected to conduct himself with the highest degree of integrity … insulting vulgar and disparaging language by a legal practitioner cannot be tolerated.”

    And yet Dali Mpofu appears to get away with it?

  • Tim Price says:

    There should probably have been a referral for psychological observation. The man seems unwell.

  • Sam Shu says:

    A good start and a good signal that some things may be improving and/or some people still have the ethics and judgement to do the right thing. From these, small steps, we will build a new South Africa.

  • SAM VAN WYK says:

    DALI MPOFU GETS AWAY WITH IT, WHY NOT HIM?

  • Mike Meyer says:

    Another mpofu nipped in the bud. Well done SCA

  • Rencia Cloete says:

    Well done SCA.
    Block Dali Mpofu now and asap. Surely you cant let him get away with even worse behaviour?!
    He’s probably this guys role model!

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